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  • Writer's pictureRenate Ruby

It's not pieces, it's a puzzle!

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

I had a fantastic ZOOM conversation with about 20 designers yesterday about different ways to procure product for projects. I left the conversation more motivated than ever to offer a different way to look at what we do and how we do it as well as how we think about what we are actually selling.

Let me start off by saying that I respect any designer's decision to run their business any way that works for them. I also want to say that based on that very small group, I don't think many of you think you have much choice in how you do your business. I'm here to offer another way to think about your profession, your business and what value you bring.

The notion that our clients are just consumers and they entitled to get the lowest possible price for any item available on the open market has been so absorbed by the culture at large and our industry specifically that if you follow the "rules" you have no chance of making a great living doing what you were born to do.


First : Let go of thinking that you are buying finished items for your client. You as a designer only purchase pieces of a puzzle - and just like a puzzle it does no good to only get half of the pieces. The pieces have no added value on their own, their value increases once you install them with the other elements of the design. When you do that - the VALUE of each of the individual pieces increases. You add value to the items, pieces, elements of a design just by using them in your design. By putting them into a composition you have transformed the object and made it instantly worth more money.

Even if you are using a sofa from any big box retailer that the client could buy on their own, when they purchase it it is worth the number on the price tag. It is a single item and there is no added value when the customer has it delivered to their home. They bought a couch - they got a couch.

However - When you buy that same couch, it's the RIGHT couch. It completes the composition and the value of that couch is MORE than the number on the vendor price tag. When a designer selects a piece to go into a design, it is no longer the same thing it was in the store.... now it is part of a design that will deliver a feeling to the space. It is now part of art.

I know this is an uphill battle to accept this premise. We in our own lives want to get the best prices for everything and we assume that selling items at the best price is the way to make clients happy..... but what I am suggesting here is to keep focused on what you are actually selling - which is NOT a couch. You are selling style, taste, composition, security, elevation..... All of that, and the pieces used to deliver those intangible things go up in value when they are a part of creating those intangibles.

At the end of the day those intangible feelings we are really selling are the things that have true value. Those are the things ONLY a designer can deliver. That is where you can bring value, at whatever price you charge.

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